Leesburg High School band director, guidance counselor resign amid investigation of ‘cult’ group

Band director Gabriel Fielder, guidance counselor Leonardo Finelli resign

LEESBURG, Fla. – The band director and guidance counselor at Leesburg High School resigned after an investigation began into a secret society described as a “cult-like group.”

According to an investigation report, a Leesburg police officer interviewed a former student on April 6 who said he was a member of the group called the “Elder Council” that was led by band director Gabriel Fielder.

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The student said he was 17 years old in September 2020 when Leonardo Finelli, the guidance counselor for the school at the time and also a member of the group, began sending him sexual messages in September 2020, according to police.

The report said Finelli told Fielder he was messaging the student when Fielder said they were not allowed to message each other anymore, The student told police Fielder deleted the messages between the two from the teen’s phone and from iCloud, the report shows. Fielder is accused of telling the teen and Finelli to keep the messages a secret and to keep it from other group members.

Police said the teen told officers the group “broke up” in July 2021 and Finelli messaged him. The report said the teen was 18 at the time and the two entered a sexual relationship until November 2021.

The former student told police he waited to report the incident after taking time to process the situation.

A spokesperson with the school district said Fielder and Finelli resigned.

“This group was in no way affiliated with the school or the district, and any meetings they may have had were held off campus,” said Sherri Owens, the communications coordinator for Lake County Schools.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.